HL Deb 12 July 1983 vol 443 cc716-8

3 p.m.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the second Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will consider establishing a Job Creation Commission drawn from the TUC, CBI, universities, and Britain's learned societies.

The Minister of State, Privy Council Office, and Minister for the Arts (The Earl of Gowrie)

No, my Lords. An additional Job Creation Commission would add nothing to the work of the Manpower Services Commission, would create no jobs directly, and by adding to public spending would damage employment levels in other ways.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that the primary organisation in damaging job levels are the Government, who have created this unemployment? Would he not consider that the reply he has given to the House, a cursory No, to examining the problem of unemployment of millions of our fellow-Britons is a little savage? Would the noble Earl agree that perhaps members of the TUC, the CBI, and our universities might he able to help the Government to get over the problem which they have created and which has inflicted so much misery on many of our fellow-Britons as well as damage on the economy of Great Britain?

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, on the noble Lord's first supplementary about the responsibility of the Government, he is certainly entitled to his views, but a very substantial majority of his fellow-countrymen appear to disagree with him. On the second point, I refer him back to the original Answer. The idea that the Government are short of advice in tackling this deep anxiety of high levels of unemployment, at a time when whole industries are engaged in major change throughout the Western world, is absurd. We are in touch with every level of advice, including advice in your Lordships' House. I am confident in the Manpower Services Commission in its efforts to ease people through this transitional period. As for permanent job prospects, that must of course depend on an upturn in world trade and our competitive response to that upturn.

Lord Rochester

My Lords, would the noble Earl agree that the way to solve complex problems like unemployment is not to set up more and more commissions but to join in making use of those that already exist, particularly since in the case of the Manpower Services Commission it is already representative of employers, trade unions, and education?

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, I wholeheartedly agree with the noble Lord, and I am most grateful to him for his intervention.

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard

My Lords, would my noble friend agree that the trade unions are, to a certain extent, responsible for the present unemployment, because over many years they have had restrictive practices and have forced wages up far above economic productivity? Is my noble friend aware that that has given us some of the lowest productivity in Western Europe? Is he aware therefore that the trade unions are, to a great extent, responsible for the present rate of unemployment?

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, I certainly agree with my noble friend that if in the short term you seek to preserve jobs against competitive tendencies in a given industry you will lose more later on, not only through the collapse of the industry but through the collapse of wealth generated thereby. The Government need no advice from anyone on the importance of lowering wage claims in maintaining employment levels. We are very aware of it indeed.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, is the noble Earl aware of a point that I have made often in your Lordships' House, that when this problem first arose in the early 1930s it savagely smote the United States of America and then our country and great parts of Europe? All sorts of organisations were extant which have been quoted today—the examples from the Liberal Benches—and their contribution was nil. It was when Franklin Delano Roosevelt then called together—

Noble Lords


Lord Molloy

Is the noble Earl aware that, when the President of the United States of America then called together almost the equivalent of what I am suggesting, the first signs of overcoming this horrible economic disease became apparent and ultimately it was conquered? Is it not at least worth considering?

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, it is certainly the case that international co-operation in coming out of recession is most valuable, and certainly my right honourable friend the Prime Minister is aware of the importance of her participation in international councils of that kind. However, in other respects I am afraid I cannot agree that conditions nowadays are comparable to those of the early 1930s.

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that those of us who have had direct connection with the Manpower Services Commission have nothing but admiration for what it is doing? In particular, those young people who are employed get enormously important experience, and often jobs at the end. We should do more to support the Manpower Services Commission for doing a good job.

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, I am aware from personal experience of the support that my noble friend himself gives to the Manpower Services Commission and I would urge comparable support on the rest of your Lordships. It is a great help indeed.

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